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Archive for September, 2012

I am enrolled in Philosophy of Asian Art, Issues in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Criticism and Locations and Criticism. We have an exchange professor from the Royal Academy of Art in London, Dr. Chantal Faust.

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Books on Andy Warhol

I began shopping for books on Andy Warhol to begin research for my graduate thesis paper.

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After my semester ended, beginning June 21st, I started a short-term residency at the Seoul Art Space-Geumcheon to collaborate with an artist in residency there on planning her open studio. I wrote an essay introducing the artist and her works to visitors in Korean and English. The artist, Donna Han, holds a B.F.A. from Oxford and created an armored dress and a shopping bag with a Victorian mask placed on it, both out of paper, for her exhibition at the residency, which opened simultaneously with the open studios at the artist residency. It was an interesting experience. Below is what I wrote for Ms. Han. It was put up by her studio door.

A Fleeting Encounter, Expressions of Endearment: The Significance of Artist Donna Louisa Han’s Open Studio

Donna Louisa Han is a British artist and holds a B.F.A. degree from Oxford University, and this is her second visit to Korea. The artist works in the various media of drawing, sculpture, performance and installation. For her open studio she presents small drawings. Visitors are invited to take a drawing of their choosing in exchange for something. For example this could be money, a gift or even an offer of support including promises left with a phone number for Han’s next visit to Korea. The artist has no expectation on the viewer and they are free to leave whatever they choose or feel able and willing to give regardless of its value. She perceives the sharing of gifts and especially food to be a communal, sometimes ceremonial even, and highly celebrated part of Korean culture.

The drawings Han has created for the open studio, which she admits are somewhat “simple” and include women’s fashion accessories and toiletries, would well remind one of Andy Warhol. Han’s subject matter and style of lines used for the drawings comfortably sit within a parallel to Warhol’s blotted ink drawings, fashion illustrations and introduction as subject matter in art of consumer goods. An addendum to Warhol’s practice of creating publicly accessible art is Han’s conferral to the viewer of complete command over the transaction which will allow anyone to not just understand her works but also take a piece home with them.

Han seems to have an interest in audience participation in art, as hinted when she fondly recalled her project of asking visitors and passersby to each tie a red ribbon, while making a wish, onto the many branches of a tree, which received a surge of response. Her other interests, pertaining to her residency in Seoul, include investigating through her art a common Korean attitude toward ‘personal appearance and self-image.’ “Koreans are very image-conscious” the artist says, mentioning as examples the popularity of plastic surgery in Korea in preference of more ‘Western-looking’ facial features. Having been surprised to see so many cosmetically enhanced faces in Korea, the artist points out that there can be mixed feelings about the phenomenon, of both emotionally affirming the beauty in surgically altered faces and sincerely questioning the ethnic value and sense of cultural identity in such. She projects this kind of insistent concern over one’s self-image onto her paper sculptures of armored dress in her Seoul Art Space_GeumChon residency group exhibition. “Being tightly guarded” through their self-images appears to have impressed Han as part of a ubiquitous psychological portrait of Seoul’s citizens as she has encountered them so far.

Regarding her choice to use paper for her beautiful armored fashion wear, Han has offered, “Paper is how we distribute ideas and patterns,” and draws an analogy between ideas, distribution-ready fronts and a person’s social shielding mechanism that her paper armor signifies. Told by a concerned friend that “In Korea, some people believe their images more than themselves,” and regarding the perceived Westernization of the “armor” in question, Han asks whether Koreans are absorbing their imported ideals or vice-versa. While this theme of a Western dispersal of ideas in the form of idealized appearances is Han’s response to her newfound environment in Korea, it has been incubated through her previous experiences in the East and reflects Han’s belief that the greatest efficacy in art is the end result of art that resonates pan-culturally and is equipped to involve the greatest diversity of individuals. + Visitors are treated to both the aforementioned, interesting sculptures in the Seoul Art Space-GeumChon group exhibition and to the social ritual of exchanging spontaneous gifts for the artist’s drawings at Donna Louisa Han’s open studio.

Han Lee

Myself with the artist, Mrs. Donna Louisa Han and her daughter.

Myself with the artist, Mrs. Donna Louisa Han and her daughter.

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My first semester at Korea National University of Arts lasted some fifteen weeks, from March through June 20th. I was enrolled in the art theory department’s graduate program and took classes on Andy Warhol, exhibition planning, methodologies of art history research and cultural policy. I wrote a ten-page paper in my class on Warhol on the similarities between the works of Andy Warhol and the Korean artist, Hong Kyeong-tack. I read E.H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion for my methodologies of art history research course. My exhibition planning course was taught by the prolific curator, Mrs. Sunjung Kim, who is also one of the artistic directors of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale. We read about different public policies toward cultural enrichment of local communities in the cultural policy class. There was much to learn and the classes were a pleasure to be in. The semester included a field trip to Gyeongju, the old capital of the Shilla Kingdom. I also viewed some exhibitions in and around Seoul during my residence at Korea National University of the Arts, including the Do-ho Suh, Home within Home exhibition at Leeum, the Samsung Museum of Art, which broke the museum’s attendance record.

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(Seoul, Korea) On March 20, 2012, I visited the Seoul National University Museum of Art, Artsonje Center and Plateau. SNU has a giant campus and its art museum possesses interesting architecture. A Dutch realism exhibition was on there. At Artsonje Center, closer to the downtown, Gwanghawmun Plaza area of Seoul, two exhibitions were being shown, mainly a conceptual piece consisting of ceiling lights and a sound system playing irregular noises by artist Kim Sora and a series of installations allegedly by the fictitious North Korean rock musician, Li Sing-Woong. Kim’s exhibition included a room full of nothing but ceiling lights and a sound system that played irregular noises. Li’s works were of a North Korean theme and at first glance looked quite convincing, and must have included a drum set, according to my memory months later.

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